Numbers 2. Report of Captain Robert S. Williamson, U. S. Topographical Engineers.
NEW BERNE, N. C., March 19, 1862.
SIR: In obedience to instructions from the general commanding the Department of North Carolina I have the honor to submit the following report of the reconnaissances made previous to the battle of March 14, near New Berne, together with a sketch of the defenses of that town:*
The fleet arrived near the mouth of Slocum's Creek, about 16 miles below New Berne, on the evening of the 12th instant, and the troops landed the next day on the northern bank of the creek. At 2 p. m. the whole force was on shore, and I was then directed to go in advance, to ascertain the position of the enemy. No cavalry had landed, but I was furnished with a horse, and Lieutenants Pell and Fearing, aides to General Burnside, being also mounted, were directed to accompany me. Taking a northwesterly direction, we soon came to the county road, which leads to the town, and followed it for five or six miles, when we reached the first of the enemy's works, consisting of a long breastwork at right angles to the road. This we found to be deserted. Passing on, we found at the distance of a quarter of a mile a well-traveled cross road leading to the river, about a half a mile distant. This we examined, and found it to terminate at a house near the river bank, on which was a line of breastworks broken by a redan for field pieces. This was also deserted, but according to the statement of a negro at the house it had been occupied by the rebel troops with field artillery during the night previous. I then returned to the head of the advancing column, where I found General Foster, to whom I reported, after which I again advanced on the road.
At various times I was joined by some of the staff officers of the different brigades, among whom were Lieutenants Pell and Fearing, of General Burnside's staff; Captain Potter, Lieutenant Ed. N. Strong, Lieutenant James H. Strong, and Lieutenant James H. Strong, and Lieutenant James M. Pendleton, of General Foster's staff, and Lieutenant Reno and Lieutenant Morris, of General Foster's staff, and Lieutenant Reno and Lieutenant Morris, of General Reno's staff. There may have been others whose names I have inadvertently omitted, but having been but ten days in this department I have not yet learned the names of all the staff officers. Those whom I have mentioned cheerfully assisted in the reconnaissances. At one time, a little before sunset, Lieutenant Reno and myself rode at a gallop a couple of miles in advance, when suddenly, at a turn of the road, we came within 50 yards of a column of rebels in retreat, upon which we again returned and reported. Finally, when some distance in advance and accompanied by several staff officers, we came upon a small rebel advance guard of 3 or 4 mounted men, who hailed us, when we again returned to the head of the column. During the whole day it was cloudy, with rain at frequent intervals. The country traversed was in open pine timber.
In the morning there was a dense fog. Shortly after daylight I again went in advance to reconnoiter, accompanied by several staff officers. After going for a short distance through the pine woods we came to an open place, where the trees had been felled, which gave us a view of the enemy in force. They were in line behind an intrenchment perpendicular to the road, and extended as far as I could see on either hand-that is to say, about a half mile to the left and a quarter